Phil Carter doesn’t think it matters

Phil Carter certainly seems to be saying Iraq=Vietnam: Irrelevant Exuberance

It takes months–perhaps even years–to gain the depth and perspective on Iraq necessary to develop a reasonably objective and balanced understanding of events there. Neither O’Hanlon and Pollack nor conservative scholars like Fred Kagan, the intellectual architect of the current surge, spend nearly enough time in Iraq to understand its shifting, uncertain realities.

I wasn’t watching, but surely Carter says this whenever critics say that the “surge” isn’t working, too, right? Right? I mean, two journalists turn in a cautiously optimistic report after months of “it’s not working”, and suddenly no one can know unless they’ve been there for “months–perhaps even years”?

How about we send Congressional leaders to Iraq for months, perhaps even years. In three years they’ll have a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground over there and can then make informed decisions.

Carter does raise a lot of important points, particularly that military success and basic security is only part of the game…if Iraqis cannot govern themselves ably, true victory will remain out of reach. But I don’t hear supporters of the “surge” saying otherwise.

I’ve personally been treated to years of “the military isn’t winning in Iraq”, which turned into “the military might be winning a few battles, but they’re still losing the wider war” a couple of months back. Now it’s “even though the military is winning, it doesn’t matter”.

Blah blah blah.

Via Instapundit, who says

But is Baqubah really a place with “the highest sectarian tensions, worst fighting, and least progress”? That’s not what Michael Yon has been reporting from . . . Baqubah.

Yeah, but how long has Yon been in and out of Iraq? Oh…two or three years. Well, it must take at least four years, then…


  1. I can’t say whether or not the surge is working. All I know is that we cannot sustain the costs of this operation indefinetly. I think the costs are now up to $10 billion per month. Ultimately at the end of the day, we are coming home and they are staying there. We supposedly went in there to disarm Iraq of its wmd and to remove Saddam. That has been done, but we are left with a new can of worms that our geniuses either did not game plan or take serious. At best we are looking at a Pyrrhic victory. At worst it could be the biggest strategic blunder we have made.

  2. Agreed…if we leave at the end of a day too soon it will be nothing but a pyrrhic victory and possibly the biggest strategic blunder we’ve made. But that’s the whole point. When is the ‘end of the day’? The ‘come home now’ crowd seems convinced that we’ve already lost, so get out sooner rather than later. All the bad follow-ups to US withdrawal are inescapable, so do it now. Then there are some folks who think ‘if we keep making headway, we might head off a lot of the bad follow-ups and (gasp!) maybe even win’. Then there’s Obama, who says ‘pull out of Iraq now and send troops to Pakistan’…which is what this post is about.

  3. Murdoc, isn’t the Obama post the previous one? I thought I was writing about Phil Carter’s slate article about the surge.

  4. I can’t say whether the or not the surge is working, but I can say that based on reports from people like Michael Yon and soldiers who are participating, it’s definitely not not working! The only two questions in my mind are, can Iraq ever succeed, and do we want it to succeed? I think the answer is yes (eventually), and for me personally, yes. It might take a while longer, but I’d rather wait later and be safer than be too premature with leaving and risk overestimating their capacity to handle the situation themselves. The cost of pulling out prematurely is IMO much higher than the cost of staying and paying for the status quo. And the benefits of doing this right could be significant. I suppose the only rational argument for leaving is ‘it will never work’, but if that’s your argument, my question is – why? Dozens of countries managed the transition from dysfunctional monarchies and dictatorships to at least moderately stable democracies. Is there something unique about Iraqis that they can’t manage that? If there is, I reckon it’s only meddling countries like Iran and Syria who have so much staked on keeping their neighbours as shitholes. If so, then we have to make them understand. Maybe a few bunker-busting diplomats could convince them to change their ways. They can be very persuasive.

  5. Phil Carter sucks. He’s spent too much time out of the military and trying to get in with the Left Coast law establishment. He’s worse than useless.

  6. Jeff Feagles: Though I disagree with Carter’s larger point in this particular case, I certainly stop short of ‘Phil Carter sucks.’ Far short.

  7. There are quite a number of sources that have been in and around Iraq, with Michael Yon being the best known: John Burns (NYT) been there since the fall of Saddam, Bill Roggio, Bill Ardolino, JD Johannes, Michael Ware, Iraq the Model, Badgers Forward, Healing Iraq, MNF-I press and article archives, Iraqslogger…. Say, what is this alternate universe of limited, reliable information that Mr. Carter lives in? Mind you, reading all of that means that the poor reader actually needs to think, compare views and try to find out why different people see things differently and come to their own conclusions. The information is out there, basically free for the reading and the only investment is in time and thought, and not adhering to any party line or ideology but to try and understand things as they are, not as we wish them to be. Of course that just might challenge underlying ideologies and understandings across the political spectrum… to handle the world as it is not as we think it is. Very harmful to the Left and Right this ‘independent thinking’ thing.

  8. Phil Carter seems to be saying that, because Messrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack aren’t qualified to say that the war is being won, therefore the war is being lost. He also seems to be saying that everything America touches turns magically into Vietnam. I agree that it is difficult to attain a ‘reasonably objective and balanced understanding of events there’ in Iraq. It would probably take a few years to gain such an understanding of events in Turkey, or Ireland, or even North Dakota (pop quiz: who is the governor of North Dakota?) But we have to make a choice now. The best thing to do is to consult those who are most directly involved, who are in this case the soldiers (and who don’t have the specter of Vietnam lurking in their brains). At this point the soldiers are saying that they have been getting more cooperation (in the form of information and even armed force) from the Iraqi people than they have ever gotten in the past. That doesn’t mean we are winning the war; but it does mean that we’ve hit on the correct tactics, and it indicates that the war can still be won. A recent poll (Pew’s, I think) indicates that support for suicide bombings has decreased considerably among Muslims worldwide in the past five years (this would make sense, as suicide bombing was never a part of the Muslim tradition). It is possible, even likely, that large sections of the Iraqi people are simply sick of the violence in their country, and that they are coming to see the government as the best way to obtain a little peace and quiet (just as many people in Europe got sick of war after 1945, and welcomed the American occupation as the least of evils). If this is the case, and many soldiers say it is, we have the obligation to remain there and support them.